Organizational Behavior

Theories of Learning

Learning theories are an established set of principles explaining how individuals receive, retain, and recall knowledge.  By studying and knowing the several learning theories, we can better explain how learning occurs.  The principles of the theories can be used as guidelines to help select instructional tools, techniques, and strategies that promote learning.

Theories of Learning are-


Key behaviorist thinkers including Thorndike, Pavlov, and Skinner have hypothesized that learning is a change in observable behavior caused by external stimuli in the environment. The key principle of Behaviorism is the reward or punishment of a new behavior, commonly described as the ‘carrot and stick’ approach to learning.


Cognitivism replaced Behaviorism as the dominant learning paradigm in the 1960s and proposes that learning comes from mental activity such as memory, motivation, thinking, and reflection. Cognitivism focuses on the transmission of information from someone who knows (such as an ‘expert’ as opposed to facilitators) to learners who do not know.


From the constructivist perspective, learning is not a stimulus-response phenomenon as described by Behaviorism, rather it requires self-regulation and the building of conceptual structures through reflection and abstraction. The learner takes an active role in constructing his own understanding rather than receiving it from someone who knows, learning through observation, processing, and interpretation.


One of the key theorists of experiential learning is David Kolb who developed his experiential model, as opposed to a purer cognitive which formally recognized that people learn from experience and described learning as following a cycle of experiential stages.

Social and Contextual

In the Social and Contextual approach, learning does not occur solely within the learner, but in the group and community in which they work. Learning is a share4 process which takes place through observing, working together and being part of a larger group, which includes colleagues of varying levels of experience, able to stimulate each other’s development.